By Jackie Kent, Director of Education
It all started with a black vulture.
A few years ago, I was new to Philadelphia and while attending an event with my family I saw Philly Metro’s executive director, Rick Schubert, giving a wildlife presentation. He was talking about some of Pennsylvania’s wonderful wild species and he was holding a bird I had never seen that close before– a black vulture. I thought to myself, “This. This is what I want to do.”
I immediately signed up to volunteer with Rick and Michele so I could learn all that I could about wildlife rehab and the animals that I saw that day. Cut to four years (and hundreds of hours of work) later, I am a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and the director of education at Philadelphia Metro Wildlife Center...and now I get to bring wild animals to the public!
In addition to healing animals and returning them to the wild, a big part of PMWC’s mission involves public education. Through each phone call we answer, each intake we process through our front door, each social media post we write, and each wildlife program we deliver, we have an opportunity to engage the public regarding our local species and how to live peacefully amongst them.
One of the coolest parts of my job involves taking our wild animal “ambassadors” out on outreach programs. Wildlife rehabilitation centers hold special permits in order to be able to keep a small number of animals to use as education ambassadors to take on programs, or to use as surrogates (substitute parents for our orphan babies).
Going out on programs represents a small portion of our ambassadors’ time, so we take great care to ensure that they are fed a proper diet that meets the needs of their species in captivity, get plenty of exercise, and are provided with other forms of enrichment such as interesting foods, different perches or habitats, and sometimes even toys (hey, our animals like to play, too!).
I’d like to introduce you to our newest ambassador, a Virginia opossum named Sid!
Sid came to us as a patient after being caught by a dog. While he survived his initial injuries, it became clear that he would not be suited for re-release back into the wild with his lingering ailments. We don’t make just any patient that can’t be released into an ambassador, it’s a huge commitment and we carefully consider each animal that we keep permanently, and we purposefully only have a very small number of ambassadors.
Sid had a very good disposition, and we were happy to have him live with us! He has quickly become a favorite of staff, volunteers, and audiences alike!
This winter, we’d like to build Sid a bigger enclosure– one that he can explore and run around in when he is up at night! If you’d like to donate to Sid’s new digs, please visit our donate page here (https://www.phillywildlife.org/take-action/).
Also, if your organization would like a visit from Sid and our other ambassadors, please visit our education page (https://www.phillywildlife.org/education-programs/) for details!